CFS News #22 Has Global Opposition Killed Ag Biotech?

Campaign for Food Safety News #22 October 21, 1999
News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering, Factory Farming, & Organics
by: Ronnie Cummins & Ben Lilliston
Campaign for Food Safety <www.purefood.org>

Affiliated with Organic Consumers Association <www.organicconsumers.org>
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Frankenfoods Fiasco: Has Global Opposition Killed Ag Biotech? (Part 1)

Quotes of the Month:

"[Biotechnology] is the single most successful introduction of technology
in the history of agriculture including the plow. The fundamental question
investors are asking me: Is the public's acceptance going to slow down the
commercialization? And that's a perfectly good question. The only
appropriate answer is: Let's see."
Robert Shapiro, CEO of Monsanto, quoted in the New York Times Aug. 5, 1999

"Ag Biotech. Thanks, but no thanks." July 12, 1999 report for investors
published by US analysts for Deutsche Banc, the largest bank in the world.

"It's going to come to a head this fall. I don't know what will happen.
Maybe violent uprisings, farmers burning grain in the street."
W. Kirk Miller, Director of International Programs and Regulatory Affairs,
North American Export Grain Association Sept. 2, 1999
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Global Firestorm

Over the past 90 days the Biotech Behemoth has come under unprecedented
attack. From New Delhi to New England, from Scandinavia to South Africa,
Monsanto and the Gene Giants have been forced to trim their sails and
scramble for defensible positions. By September even the heretofore
complacent United States began to experience the first waves of
Frankenfoods unrest, with no less than nine biotech field test crops
sabotaged by eco-guerrillas in California, Minnesota, and New England;
announcements by major baby food companies Gerber and Heinz that they were
banning genetically engineered (GE) ingredients from their products; chaos
in farm communities after grain giant Archer Daniels Midland announced they
would not buy soybeans and corn co-mingled with GE varieties; unprecedented
media coverage of the gene-foods controversy across the US and Canada;
Monsanto's announcement of a partial surrender on the Terminator
Technology; and initial discussions in the US Congress and Canadian
Parliament on requiring labeling of GE foods.

"Clearly the firestorm of controversy in Europe has spread around the
world," said biotech analyst Sano Shimoda, president of BioScience
Securities Inc. of Orinda, Calif. "The sparks of the firestorm have landed
in the US."

EU Resistance Fans the Flames

In Europe, the Frankenfoods boycott continues full-force with more and more
supermarket chains and food manufacturers surrendering to consumer demands
to get GE-tainted products off their shelves. Crop uprootings and protests
have multiplied across the continent, with French farmers and British,
German, Irish, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Austrian, Swiss, and
Scandinavian consumer and

groups leading the charge. Rattling
the nerves of the international grain cartel and agribusiness giants, a
number of major animal feed companies, meat and poultry producers, and
supermarkets have announced bans on GE-derived animal feeds, pet foods, and
meat and poultry products. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and other
groups initiated in September a "mopping up" campaign to drive
GE-contaminated meat and animal feeds completely off the EU market.
Industry analysts point out that approximately 50% of all GE crops
worldwide are incorporated into animal feed. As Benedikt Haerlin of
Greenpeace International stated on Sept. 16 "The question of whether you
can use genetically modified products in animal feed is the next big issue
to face Europe...I'm afraid many consumers are not fully aware of how their
chicken, for example, is produced using genetically modified material.
We'll be working on changing that by the end of the year."

The EU has imported 16 million tons of soybeans over the past 12 months
from the US, Argentina, and Brazil. US and Argentina agribusiness
corporations are increasingly worried that most of their overseas major
buyers will soon refuse to buy any soybeans, corn, or soy or corn-derived
animal feeds whatsoever which are not guaranteed "GE-free." Almost no US
corn (nor Canadian canola oil) has being exported to the EU for the past
two years because of consumer resistance. Meanwhile Brazil, where a GE ban
is in effect, is exporting record-breaking amounts of soya to the EU; while
Australia is exporting increasing amounts of non-GE canola to Japan.

Public concern about the safety of GE foods and crops reached a new level
of intensity in Europe in mid-October after key articles appeared in two
prestigious scientific journals, Lancet (by Drs. Arpad Pusztai and Stanley
Ewen) and Nature (by Drs. Eric Millstone, Eric Brunner, and Sue Mayer). The
Lancet article basically reaffirms the preliminary results of Dr. Arpad
Pusztai's explosive research findings last year that lectin-spliced
genetically engineered potatoes and a commonly-used viral "vector"
contained in many GE foods, derived from the Cauliflower Mosiac Virus
(CaMv), may likely present serious health hazards for humans. The October 7
Nature article, "Beyond Substantial Equivalence," demolishes the
pseudo-scientific rationale of the biotech industry and international
regulatory agencies that Frankenfoods and crops are "substantially
equivalent" to their non-genetically engineered counterparts, and therefore
require neither stringent pre-market safety-testing, nor mandatory
labeling. Lancet has come under intense criticism from the biotech industry
since publishing the Pusztai piece in its Oct. 15 issue.

Industry leader Monsanto is literally on their knees in the UK. In several
closed-door meetings in September with the Soil Association, Britain's
leading organic farming organization, and Friends of the Earth, Monsanto
begged forgiveness for bullying its critics and offered to help organic
farmers carry out more effective crop breeding by sharing its proprietary
data on plant genomes. As the UK newspaper, the Independent, put it in
their October 3 edition:

"[Monsanto] is in full retreat, its products rejected, its share prices
well down, and even the American heartland that forms the foundation of its
business is now increasingly at risk. It seems to be able to do nothing
right. Last week it announced that it had found plants that could make a
green plastic to be put on compost heaps to rot, only for environmentalists
to accuse it of trying to spin its way out of trouble and to point out that
genes from the new plants could spread to contaminate others."

Resistance in Asia and the Pacific

In Asia and the Pacific, biotech opposition has intensified significantly
over the past six months, forcing marketplace changes and prodding
government officials to call for mandatory labeling and more stringent
safety-testing of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Throughout the
region there has been an upsurge in protests, public debate, and
mobilization efforts by anti-biotech campaigners and consumer and farm
groups. Among the more serious recent blows to the GE Colossus in the Asia
and Pacific region are the following:

** Despite biotech industry and US government complaints, mounting public
pressure has forced regulatory authorities in Australia, New Zealand, South
Korea, and Japan to begin to implement programs of mandatory labeling of
gene-altered foods. Although consumer and public interest organizations in
these countries have criticized proposed labeling regulations as incomplete
and riddled with loopholes, US trade officials are "concerned" about the
possible loss of "billions of dollars" in US grain exports to the region,
according to a Reuters story on September 1. Similar demands for labeling
are building in Malaysia and the Philippines, while farm and consumer
organizations in India have called for an outright ban on GE crops and
imports. Indonesia and Pakistan officials have also recently announced
plans for more stringent safety-testing of GE imports, while Thailand
government authorities announced on Oct. 18 it will ban imported GE seeds
"pending clear scientific proof that they are safe," according to the
Associated Press. "Fears reached new levels last week when a shipment of
genetically modified wheat believed to be from the United States"
mysteriously arrived in Thailand, according to the AP story. The EU has
warned Thailand that its rice exports may be rejected if shipments are
found to be contaminated with GE rice varieties now being grown in that
country.

**Reuters reported on Oct. 15 that Australia's $14 billion farm export
sector is shunning GE crops because of fears of a "consumer backlash."
Despite heavy biotech industry lobbying the country has still not allowed
the commercialization of a wide range of GE products, including sugar cane,
beer, and canola. The only GE crop presently being grown on a large-scale
in Australia is cotton.

** Major food and beverage companies in Japan--following the pattern of
food and animal feed corporations in Europe--have begun implementing bans
on GE soybean and corn ingredients in their products. Kirin Brewery,
Sapporo Breweries, Itochu Feed Mills, Nippon Flour Mills, Nissin, Fuji Oil
Co., and the Japan Tofu Association, among others have decided to either
ban GE ingredients completely or put a major marketing effort into sourcing
and selling GE-free products. A division of Honda Motor Company announced
they were building a soy-handling plant in Ohio to supply the sharply
rising demand for non-GE soybeans in Japan. Interpress on Oct. 14 reported
a similar move by Pioneer-Hybrid Japan, who announced a major business
venture to import non-GE soybeans from the US. In the same article
Interpress called attention to a 1999 poll in Tokyo where "90% of those
surveyed expressed deep concern over the growing trend toward
biotechnology." Japan is the largest importer of food products and animal
feeds in the world.

Dow Jones reported on October 5 that the Japanese futures market (the price
buyers are willing to pay for future deliveries) for US soybeans which were
harvested last year are "declining rapidly" because last year's soybeans
"are mixed with large amounts of GM (genetically modified) products."
According to Dow Jones "Japanese [grain] traders are rapidly switching to
imports of GM-free soybeans." With giant importers in the EU, Japan, and
other nations now demanding GE-free foods, more large transnational grain
traders are expected to follow the example of Archer Daniels Midland, who
announced in September they expect US farmers and grain elevators to start
separating out and segregating GE from non-GE grains. Archer Daniels
Midland purchases fully 1/3 of all corn, soybeans, and wheat produced in
the US.

Storm Clouds Over Latin America and Africa
Monsanto and the GE industry are now coming under fire as well in Latin
America and Africa, once considered "secure areas" for bio-colonial
ventures. Besides mounting criticism over the Terminator and Traitor Seed
technologies (see <www.rafi.org>) and monopoly patents, Biotech Inc. is
beginning to feel the heat over issues of safety-testing, environmental
impact, and labeling. Among the more significant developments:

**In Mexico, the ruling PRI party has been forced by mounting public
pressure since May (when the Monarch butterfly story broke) to proclaim-at
least in rhetoric, if not in reality--that genetically engineered corn
cannot be imported into Mexico from the US. On July 16, Interpress reported
that two government scientific bodies on biodiversity and technology warned
of threats to Mexico's native corn varieties from field tests or imports of
Bt or herbicide-resistant corn varieties from the US, and called for both
an import ban and a planting ban. Mexico is the world center for corn
biodiversity with 25,000 native varieties. As Greenpeace Mexico told the
Financial Times on Oct. 12, referring to GE corn exports from the US, "It's
a time bomb. The biggest threat is to biodiversity." Greenpeace warns that
25% of this year's corn imports into Mexico are GE. According to the Times,
despite mounting concerns over GE corn, Mexico has approximately 120,000
acres of GE cotton and 15,000 acres of GE soybeans currently under
cultivation.

Responding to growing controversy Mexico's largest corn flour company,
Maseca, recently announced a ban on GE ingredients in their products,
according to the New York Times. Mexico, with a population of over 90
million, is the second largest buyer of US corn in the world, purchasing
$500 million in US corn exports annually.

** In Brazil, where 25% of the world's soybeans are grown, the Supreme
Court ruled in June that Monsanto's GE Roundup Ready soybeans (RRS) cannot
be grown until the government finalizes stringent regulations on bio-safety
and Monsanto completes an environmental impact statement. Mounting public
debate and demonstrations by farm and environmental groups have made the GE
controversy a major issue in the country. Monsanto representatives admitted
to the Brazilian trade press in late-September that no RRS soybeans will be
planted in 1999-2000 and that prospects for planting in 2000-2001 are also
in jeopardy. Analysts believe that if Brazil's RRS ban continues for
several more years (and sales to the EU of non-GE soya continue to grow),
GE crops may never gain a significant market share in the country. Brazil,
with a population of 165 million, has the largest economy in Latin America.

** Other Latin American developments. Paraguay's Biosafety Commission,
supported by many of the country's non-governmental organizations, called
on August 4 for "GE-free" production in Paraguay. Meanwhile in Argentina,
the world's second largest producer of GE crops (with 10 million acres of
GE soybeans under cultivation), the government has begun to come under
criticism by environmental groups for its lack of regulations on GE crops
and for the "heavy participation of representatives from the industrial
sector" in the nation's so-called "Bio-safety Commission," according to a
Sept. 7 story by Interpress.

**In Africa, a group of nations, led by Ethiopia, are developing draft
legislation that would make it illegal to export GE foods or crops to
their countries without prior country approval, according to an article in
Nature magazine August 5. This prior consent law would force GE exporters
to carry out human safety, environmental, and socioeconomic studies. This
initiative has drawn opposition from biotechnology corporations and
grain-exporting nations, led by the US, who consider so-called Biosafety
Protocols a restraint of trade. In early August it was announced that the
government of South Africa, through its departments of Agriculture and
Health, is moving toward compulsory labeling of GE foods.

is Frankenstein Dead?

We at CFS News would love to inform you that our adversaries, the so-called
"Life Sciences" corporations, are on their last legs, at least in regard to
their global plans for agbiotech. Monsanto in particular seems to shifting
into a defensive mode, compared to their former bully-on-the-block
attitude. Swiss-based Novartis is trying ever so hard to be nice, while
DuPont ("better living through chemistry") is promising a cornucopia of
health benefits once its GE functional foods and nutraceuticals hit the
market 5-10 years from now. Waiting in the wings for the Frankenfoods
controversy to die down are the friendly xenotransplantation (animal to
human organ transplants) folks from Novartis, the GE tree doctors from
Monsanto, and the GE Frankenfish advocates, who respectively assure us
they'll solve the global organ donor, forestry, and fishing crises.
However, peel off the thin veneer of biotech "green washing," cut through
the PR propaganda, and it's obvious that our adversaries are still up to
their old tricks:

**Monsanto's "surrender" on the Terminator Technology October 4 is, in
battle terms, a tactical diversion, rather than a strategic surrender. Of
course it is a significant victory for farm and consumer organizations
around the world to force Monsanto to publicly renounce first-strike use of
this neutron bomb of GE agriculture. As Pat Mooney of RAFI stated
"Congratulations should go to the civil society organizations, farmers,
scientists, and governments all over the world who have waged highly
effective anti-Terminator campaigns during the past 18 months."

But as Hope Shand from RAFI explained to the Environment News Network:
"[The]Terminator is not dead in the water. Many other companies are
pursuing the same goal, as well as genetic trait control, which is also
very scary. And the USDA is still promoting terminator." As the New York
Times noted, Monsanto and its soon to be acquired cotton seed subsidiary,
Delta and Pine Land company, will still continue research on the
Terminator, while they and other transnational biotech companies will
continue researching and patenting "related work." This "related work" on
the trait or "Traitor" technology, the "Son of Terminator," will achieve
the same end results as the Terminator, essentially preventing GE seeds and
plants from growing to full maturity, developing full yields, or
expreszsing desired traits without spraying the biotech company's
proprietary chemicals--thereby giving a half-dozen giant GE companies a
global stranglehold over seeds and farm inputs. Traitor technology, just
like its predecessor, the Terminator, poses a mortal threat to global
plant and insect biodiversity and the 1.4 billion farmers and rural
communities worldwide who save and trade or sell their seeds.

**While sounding off about "dialogue" and "engaging with the concerns of
consumers" Monsanto and the other life science corporations are working
furiously behind the scenes to discredit scientists and journalists who
dare to speak out publicly about the evermore obvious hazards of GE foods
and crops. Nearly every biotech company and agribusiness public relations
firm in the EU and North America during the first two weeks of October
joined in a loud chorus to attack Erik Millstone's brilliant article on the
myth of GE "substantial equivalence" in Nature, as well as Arpad Pusztai's
article in Lancet. Overall in the past 30 days there has been a major
increase in pro-biotech stories, letters to the editor, editorials, and
opinion pieces in newspapers, magazines, and electronic media across the
global. The biotech lobby are in a panic. They know they're losing the
battle for the hearts and minds of consumers and farmers, and they have
launched an all-out propaganda offensive--using indentured scientists and
"third party" experts to brand their opponents as "luddites" and to
proclaim their own corporate junk science as "sound science."

**While Deutsche Banc has proclaimed the end of ag biotech--or at least
Monsanto--as a profitable investment, other financial powerhouses such as
PaineWebber in their Sept. 27 agbiotech newsletter characterize GE
agriculture investments as having "short-term uncertainty, [but] long-term
promise." According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Oct. 5, in a poll of
19 investment analysts conducted by Zack's Investment Research, "nine say
Monsanto is a 'strong buy,' five call it a 'moderate buy,' and five have a
'hold' on the stock."

**On Wall Street Monsanto's stock price recently fell as low as $33.62 a
share, down 35% over the past 12 months. Novartis, AstraZeneca, AgrEvo,
Dupont, and other biotech companies are experiencing similar problems.
Rumors are circulating in financial circles that Monsanto plans to layoff
20% of its employees by the end of the year. According to Dow Jones
Newswire on October 6, Monsanto's Director of Agriculture in the UK,
Charlotte Walker, admitted to Greenpeace leaders that the company's public
relations efforts had failed and that Monsanto is "discussing the
segregation of genetically modified and conventional crops."

**While under attack, beleaguered Monsanto is still selling record amounts
of Roundup herbicide, GE seeds, and other agricultural chemicals, with
sales in its agricultural operations totaling a record $3.1 billion for the
first six months of 1999, according to Chemical Week magazine (Sept. 15).
Monsanto's pharmaceutical division, Searle, is also quite profitable,
boasting record sales of its new arthritis drug, Celebrex. Although profits
are sluggish in their ag divisions, Novartis and the Gene Giants are still
raking in billions of dollars in profits off chemicals, drugs, and medical
biotech. And as RAFI points out in a Sept. 3 news release, even if the top
five Gene Giants (AstraZeneca, DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis, Aventis) were
ever to stumble and fall, their agbiotech and seed operations would likely
become "bargain buys for bigger fish--the food processors or insurance
companies."

**While mouthing the need for public dialogue and debate on the GE issue,
the Clinton administration and the biotech lobby have been busy behind the
scenes trying to pressure government officials and international economic
and trade organizations to discourage individual country's efforts to
require mandatory labeling or rigorous safety-testing of Frankenfoods and
crops. The Bureau of National Affairs reported on Sept. 9 that the US was
trying to get trade ministers from 21 nations in Asia and the Pacific
(members of APEC--the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) to put
pressure on EU authorities to stop obstructing GE imports. The Los Angeles
Times reported on October 5 that the Clinton administration has been
"fighting to remove... trade barriers" to GE exports and will press for
pro-biotech rules at the upcoming WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle Nov.
29-Dec. 3.

**PR Week (a trade journal of the public relations industry) reported in
its July 5, 1999 issue that ag biotech corporations are putting millions of
dollars into PR efforts to counter anticipated US public opposition to
genetic engineering. Tony Minnichsoffer, communications manager for
Novartis in Minneapolis, told PR Week that the US food industry's 5000
trade associations "need to work together as an industry" to broaden PR
efforts on behalf of GE, while Monsanto's favorite PR firm,
Burson-Marsteller warned that the [GE debate in the US] "is not in the
crisis mode yet, but the potential is certainly there in this country."
Fleishman-Hilliard, a leading PR firm, said they expect their company alone
to receive $2.5 million dollars in contracts this year for PR work on
"crisis preparedness and issues relating to GE foods." The Grocery
Manufacturers of America, a major US trade association representing food
manufacturers and the supermarket chains, also have launched a $1million PR
effort to burnish the tarnished image of agbiotech. Fleishman-Hilliard
recommends that food and biotech companies prepare for a major controversy
over GE to erupt in the US with a "three-pronged approach": "Anticipate
potential issues; Drill with simulated situations to raise the crisis
instinct within a company; Quickly deal with brush fires such as the
butterfly study."

**Despite growing public demands in the EU, and warnings from scientists
about the hazards of antibiotic resistant marker genes, the European
Commission bowed to US and agribusiness pressure on Sept. 27 and refused to
require mandatory labeling on genetically engineered animal feeds. However,
with or without required labeling, major EU animal feed, pet food, meat,
poultry, and dairy corporations--fearful of facing the wrath of Greenpeace
and other anti-GE campaign groups--are scrambling to eliminate GE
ingredients from their products.

To answer our own question. Frankenfoods are not dead--although global
opposition has certainly put the Gene Giants on the defensive. We're
starting to win some of the battles, but the war has just begun. Stay tuned
to this newsletter and to our two web sites for further developments. For
more in-depth stories on the developments mentioned in this issue see the
"Latest News" section at <http://www.purefood.org> We've installed a new
search engine so you can more easily find the information you're looking
for among the several thousand articles now posted on our site.
### End of CFS News #22 ###

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